There are a number of treatments that may ease the symptoms of a COPD exacerbation. It is very important to know all your options. You and your health care provider can develop a treatment plan that suits you best. Staying on top of your treatment plan is vital to your comfort and health.
Pulmonary rehab is
usually supervised and structured. This means that it will include evaluation
of your symptoms and treatment, short-term and long-term goals, education,
support, and supervised therapy programs.
Evaluation and goals
Your rehab team will look at
your symptoms and current treatment to make sure that you can get the most out
of the program. They also will identify other concerns, such as heart problems,
that might affect your ability to exercise and to perform daily tasks.
Then you and your team will set short-term and long-term goals to meet
your specific needs. For instance:
Some people might want to be able to dress
themselves every day.
Others might want to be able to walk 30
minutes every day.
Understanding COPD-how it progresses and is best treated-makes it easier
to live with and manage the disease. Rehab programs generally include education
for both you and your family about:
How the program affects your COPD
The importance of the program to your overall
How regular participation can help you meet your goals.
encouragement from friends, family, and your health team are crucial in helping
you stay with your rehab plan.
Your doctor may recommend counseling for you
and your family.
Support groups are available in many cities.
These groups can help you and your family cope with COPD and the problems it
One of the greatest benefits of a rehab program is the
chance to meet other people with COPD who are doing a lot to breathe better and
live longer. You can exchange information about living with COPD with people
who have had a lot of success.
Supervised therapy programs
Therapy programs are the heart of pulmonary rehab. They are created just
for you, depending on your needs and goals.
What therapy programs are used in pulmonary rehab?
If you still
smoke, stopping is the most important therapy program. Quitting smoking can
slow damage to your lungs. Your rehab team can help you find the right program
for quitting, whether it involves medicine, counseling, and/or support
Exercise training for COPD often
includes aerobic exercise, such as walking or using a stationary bike, and
muscle-strengthening exercises for your arms and legs.
Regular exercise can improve how active you
can be, and it can reduce your shortness of breath.
If you stay
active, you may have fewer problems from COPD, have a better attitude about
your life and the disease, and be less likely to be depressed.
Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise
program. People with COPD may also have heart problems that limit their
exercise choices. You may need medical supervision when you start the
Breath training can help you take deeper breaths and reduce shortness of
breath. You must practice breath training regularly for it to work.
Three basic breath-training methods are diaphragmatic breathing,
pursed-lip breathing, and breathing while bending forward. They can be used to
help you get through periods when you feel more short of breath.
Diaphragmatic breathing helps your lungs expand so that they take in more air. (Your
diaphragm is a muscle that helps draw air into your lungs as you breathe.)
Many, but not all, people with COPD find this breathing method helpful.
Lie on your back, or prop yourself up on
With one hand on your belly and the other on your
chest, breathe in, pushing your belly out as far as you can. You should be able
to feel the hand on your belly moving out, while the hand on your chest should
When you breathe out, you should be able to feel the
hand on your belly moving in.
After you can do this kind of
breathing well lying down, you can learn to do it sitting or standing.
Practice this breathing for 20 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day.
may help you breathe more air out so that your next breath can be deeper.
Pursed-lip breathing reduces shortness of breath and improves your ability to
Breathe in through your nose and out
through your mouth while almost closing your lips.
Breathe in for
about 4 seconds, and breathe out for 6 to 8 seconds.
Breathing while bending forward at the waist may make it easier for you to breathe. Bending
forward while breathing may reduce shortness of breath in those with severe
COPD, both at rest and during exercise. This may be because bending forward
diaphragm to move more easily.
Learning to eat well
Eating well is important to keep up your strength and health. Problems
muscle weakness and weight loss happen often in severe
COPD. With COPD, people who are very underweight, especially those with
emphysema, are likely to die sooner than people who
are at a normal weight.2 For more information,
An ongoing pulmonary rehab program can
help you function better over the long term. Each program should set short-term
and long-term goals to help you keep track of changes and successes. This makes
sure that the program continues to meet your needs.
Why It Is Done
Pulmonary rehab is recommended for
people who have lung problems such as COPD.
Pulmonary rehab helps
most people who have COPD. It especially helps those who use oxygen therapy and
have often had to go to the emergency room or hospital.
How Well It Works
A review of research shows that
taking part in pulmonary rehabilitation:3, 1
Results in greater improvement in quality of life than other types
of treatment, such as medicine.
Modestly improves how much you can exercise.
To work well, a rehab program should last at least
4 weeks. The longer the program is, the better it works.2
There is little or no risk to these programs if
they are well supervised.
What To Think About
The success of pulmonary rehab
relies on the relationship between you and your health team. It is important
that you work with your team, take an active role in the program, and
understand the importance of staying with your program.
this treatment can improve your daily life, it does not reverse the effects
that COPD has had on your lungs or other organs such as your heart. It does not
cure COPD. It trains your mind, muscles, and heart to get the most out of
Maltais F, et al. (2008). Effects of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(12): 869-878.
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive
Lung Disease (GOLD) (2005). Executive summary (updated 2005). In
Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online:
Lacasse Y, et al. (2005). Pulmonary
rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update
Primary Medical Reviewer
Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
May 4, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 04, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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